What Happens If A Dog’S Broken Dew Claw Is Still Attached?

What Are Dew Claws?

Dew claws are located on the inner side of a dog’s leg above the paw. They are vestigial digits that are not in contact with the ground and don’t bear weight (Wikipedia, 2022).

Dewclaws are essentially a dog’s “thumb.” They are believed to be remnants from dogs’ wild ancestors, which relied on their dewclaws to grip on while running and stabilize themselves for sharp turns. However, for modern domestic dogs they don’t serve much purpose anymore.

Some breeds of dogs like Briards, St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees, and more routinely have their back legs double dewclawed. Double dewclaws have essentially two dewclaws on one paw. They can be side by side or one in front of the other (Daily Paws, 2022).

While dewclaws don’t touch the ground and don’t aid in movement, they do serve a minor purpose in dogs by providing extra grip, minor stabilization, and helping distribute weight in legs (Wikipedia, 2022). However, overall they are considered fairly unnecessary appendages for domesticated dogs.

How Do Dew Claws Break?

Dew claws are vulnerable to breaking or tearing for several reasons:

They are loosely attached and only connected by skin, making them easy to snag on surfaces. The most common cause of a broken dew claw is when it gets caught on something like a fence, fabrics, or thick brush while running or playing outside (Emerald Life).

High impact activities like running, jumping, and digging can put extra stress on the dew claws and cause them to tear. Dogs that run through woods or thick bushes are especially prone to getting their dew claws caught and ripped (UrgentVet).

Sometimes dew claws can break when getting trimmed too short. Cutting into the quick while trimming can expose sensitive tissue and lead to tears.

Injuries from rough play with other pets can also result in broken dew claws. The dew claws may get scratched or bitten during play fights.

Lastly, dew claws can split or crack from trauma like falling or getting stepped on. Elderly dogs are more prone to brittle nails that fracture easily.

Signs of a Broken Dew Claw

There are several signs that may indicate your dog has a broken dew claw. The most common signs of a broken dew claw include:

Swelling, redness, and bleeding around the nail and toe area. Fractured dew claws often bleed or ooze fluid from the broken nail. There may be noticeable bruising and inflammation surrounding the paw https://www.emeraldlife.co.uk/pet-insurance/broken-dew-claw-what-to-do/.

Limping or holding the paw up. Dogs with broken dew claws tend to limp and avoid bearing weight on the injured paw due to pain and discomfort https://urgentvet.com/my-dog-broke-its-dewclaw/.

Excessive licking, chewing, or biting at the paw. Your dog may obsessively tend to the area by licking, chewing, or biting at the injured toe. This behavior indicates pain or irritation.

Crying out in pain if the toe is touched or bumped. Your dog may vocalize and yelp if the broken dew claw is accidentally disturbed. Touching the nail likely causes significant discomfort.

Risks if Left Untreated

Leaving a broken dew claw untreated can lead to several complications for the dog. According to UrgentVet.com (https://urgentvet.com/my-dog-broke-its-dewclaw/), the most common risks include:

Pain: The broken claw will likely cause pain and discomfort for the dog. This is especially true if the bone is also fractured.

Infection: An open wound can allow bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Infections will require antibiotics and further treatment.

Lameness: The dog may avoid bearing weight on the injured leg due to pain. Prolonged lameness can lead to atrophy of the muscles.

Nail detachment/loss of claw: If the broken claw is still partially attached, it may eventually detach completely. This can be traumatic and lead to bleeding.

Bone fracture: Along with the claw, the actual toe bone may also be broken. Fractures need to be set by a veterinarian to heal properly.

Overall, a broken dew claw should be treated as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary suffering and complications for the dog. Leaving it alone risks worsening pain, infection, lameness, and loss of the nail or even part of the toe.

Treating a Broken Dew Claw

If your dog breaks its dew claw, it is important to seek prompt veterinary care. The vet will examine the injury and determine the best course of treatment. There are several options for treating a broken dew claw:

Bandaging and Splinting – The vet may bandage and splint the broken claw to immobilize it and protect it while it heals. This helps reduce pain and prevent further injury. The vet will provide instructions on caring for the bandage and when to come in to have it changed. Medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories may be prescribed as well.

Surgical Repair – If the bone is broken or the nail is partially torn, surgery may be required to remove the damaged portion and suture the nail bed. This is done with anesthesia and helps ensure proper healing. Strict rest is required after surgery to allow the area to mend.

Complete Removal – If the dew claw is damaged beyond repair or presents an infection risk, the vet may recommend completely removing it. This eliminates the problem and prevents future injuries to the claw. It is done under anesthesia and requires aftercare to keep the area clean while it heals.

Seeking prompt professional treatment is crucial for the best outcome when dew claws are injured. Following veterinary recommendations can help the claw heal properly and prevent complications. Treatment depends on factors like the severity of injury, the dog’s activity level, and risk of re-injury.


After a dew claw injury, it’s important to allow the area to heal properly through rest and care. Here are some tips for aftercare following dew claw treatment:

Rest and restrict activity. Your dog should avoid strenuous activity while the dew claw heals. Take short, leashed walks for bathroom breaks but otherwise have them rest, sleep and relax as much as possible. Don’t allow running, jumping or rough play that could disturb the healing area.

Keep the site clean and bandaged. Regularly change bandages, wraps or splints applied by your vet to keep the area clean. Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, oozing or foul odor. Contact your vet if you notice any concerning symptoms. Use an Elizabethan collar if your dog keeps trying to lick or bite the injured area.

Give all medications as directed. Follow your vet’s instructions for any prescribed pain medications, antibiotics or other drugs. Give the full course as recommended, even if your dog seems back to normal. This prevents infection and supports healing.

Follow up with your vet as recommended for bandage changes, suture removal if needed, and to ensure the dew claw is healing properly. Aftercare is important for the best outcome.


If a broken dew claw is treated promptly by a veterinarian, the dog has a good chance of making a full recovery without long-term issues. The broken part of the nail will likely fall off on its own as a new nail grows in its place over several weeks. Sometimes permanent nail loss occurs if the nail bed is severely damaged. With proper care, the dog should regain normal use of the leg. However, if left completely untreated, arthritis may develop over time from compensating for the injured leg. Lameness could become a chronic problem.

According to one source, “Full recovery likely if treated promptly – Permanent nail loss possible – Lameness if arthritis develops.” [https://www.emeraldlife.co.uk/pet-insurance/broken-dew-claw-what-to-do/] Keeping the dog calm and restricting activity while the dew claw heals will lead to the best outcome.


There are some steps you can take to help prevent your dog’s dew claws from breaking:

Keeping nails trimmed – Regularly trimming your dog’s nails can help prevent tears and breaks. Long nails are more prone to getting caught and ripping off. Aim to trim every 2-3 weeks. Use trimmers designed for dogs and take care not to cut too short.

Protective footwear – Some companies make protective dog boots or footwear that can shield the dew claws from getting caught on things. These are especially useful for very active dogs that hike or run on rough terrain. They help minimize the risk of injuries.

Avoiding rough terrain – When possible, keep your dog on softer ground and avoid having them run or play on very rocky areas. Jagged rocks and branches can more easily snag dew claws and cause breaks. Take care when letting them explore harsher environments.


Treating a broken dew claw can be expensive, especially if surgery is required. According to UrgentVet, just the initial exam and supplies to treat a broken dew claw typically costs $50-80. The big expenses come if the nail needs to be surgically removed.

If the broken dew claw is still attached and needs surgical removal, costs can range from $250-500 depending on your location and vet. This covers the anesthesia, surgery to fully remove the nail, medications, and aftercare supplies like an Elizabethan collar. Additional medications like pain relievers and antibiotics may cost $25-50. Some pet insurance plans may cover a portion of surgical dew claw removal.

Aftercare and any physical therapy or recheck appointments will also add to the total bill for fixing a broken dew claw. Altogether, for a surgical procedure, a dog owner can expect to pay $300-600 to treat a traumatic dew claw injury. Non-surgical treatment is less expensive at around $100-150 on average.

When to Seek Help

If your dog’s broken dew claw is still partially attached, it’s important to seek veterinary help right away. Some signs that indicate you should take your dog to the vet include:

Signs of pain, swelling, bleeding – A broken dew claw can be very painful for dogs. If you notice your dog licking, biting or excessively grooming the injured paw, it likely hurts. Swelling and bleeding also indicate the nail may be damaged or infected, requiring medical treatment.

Nail partly detached – If part of the nail is dangling or detached, leaving the quick exposed, the injury needs to be assessed by a vet. The detached portion will likely need removal to prevent further tearing or infection.

Limping or lameness – If your dog is hesitant to bear weight on the affected paw or is limping, the dew claw break may be more severe. Your vet can examine the injury and provide pain management if needed.

It’s advisable to schedule a veterinary appointment right away if your dog’s broken dew claw is still attached, to prevent potential complications. Your vet can properly treat the injury for your dog’s comfort and health.

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